After Jury Instructions were read just before noon Friday in 4th Judicial District Court in the State vs. Dharminder Vir Sen trial, Lead Prosecutor for the State, Matt Redle, began his closing arguments.
He told the Jury that he was going to start with Count 2 - Conspiracy to Commit Aggravated Burglary, saying the evidence was clear that Sen met with Dennis Poitra, Jr. to discuss robbing houses, that he had the intent to commit the crime of burglary, and that his subsequent conduct showed the two pursued such an agreement by arming themselves with deadly weapons. Those weapons were a gun, knives, and the landscape timber.
Redle said that per instructions, the jury was to determine if the defendant had done any overt acts designed to carry out the plan. He said that Sen, along with Poitra, Jr. and Wyatt Bear Cloud, armed themselves, obtained flashlights, dark clothing, wore bandannas and entered two of five homes with the intent to steal valuables and money. Redle added that any one of those overt acts would be sufficient to complete the commission of the crime.
Regarding Count 3 - Aggravated Burglary, Redle reminded the jury that Sen and Bear Cloud had entered the truck of Tom and Terri Hatch with the intent to steal something of value, and a few days prior, Sen and Bear Cloud obtained a 9 mm handgun by taking it from the truck. In committing the theft, Redle said, the two became armed, which made the charge aggravated.
Redle said that the person in possession of the gun knew it was stolen, and that it is, in fact, possible for two people to commit one crime. He referenced Sen's own words from his confession audio. Redle quoted from the transcript, "Wyatt and I found the gun in the neighbor's truck, er, stole it from the glove compartment... [The DCI agent asks] so you didn't find it, you stole it?..."
Redle goes on to read how Sen said he "looked it up; it was a Highpoint something..." showing, Redle said, pride in the trophy of his theft. Redle also reminded the jury of how Sen identified himself and Wyatt as the perpetrators of the theft, and how he had described in detail the make and color of the truck, where it had been parked, and that it was unlocked.
Of note, Redle told the jury, was that after the theft; it was Sen who took the gun as if it was his; it was Sen who kept the gun in his possession, keeping it in his home in his bedroom; it was Sen who had the gun when he and two of his friends went to the Acme Pits to each shoot it one time across the river; it was Sen who told Poitra, Jr. that he had a gun; it was Sen who had the gun at the beginning of the robbery endeavor; it was Sen who gave Jr. the gun at the Bennett's; it was Sen who held the gun while Jr. cut the screen to get into the Ernst home; it was Sen who demanded the gun back before heading from the Ernst basement back upstairs to the master bedroom; it was Sen who acted as the gun's owner, keeping it hidden in a stocking cap and saying to Riley Larkins he wanted to use it on the cops at the traffic stop until Larkins told him to 'chill'; and it was Sen who then took the gun and holster out of the cap and hid it underneath the seat of the pick-up truck.
All of this, Redle told the jury, was sufficient evidence to render the verdict of Guilty on Count 3.
And on Count 1 - First Degree Murder, Redle told the jury that Sen, Bear Cloud and Poitra, Jr. continued to pursue their agreement of burglary. He cited Poitra, Jr.'s testimony in court Thursday afternoon, and how he had recounted the three coming to the Ernst house, where Jr. cut a slit in the window, climbed in and unlocked a door to let the others in. He had testified how they saw the Ernsts sleeping in the master bedroom when they went into the guest bedroom. Finding nothing there, Redle said, Jr. told them how they then went to the laundry room, saw the purse, from which Jr. took $30, before the three headed to the basement.
Redle said how Jr. had testified that after finding nothing valuable in the basement, Sen took the gun and said "let's finish this," went upstairs to the bedroom, yelled, told Mr. Ernst he was going to shoot him and followed through with the threat, firing three times, hitting him twice.
Redle said, "The Defense has suggested that Mr. Ernst's death was caused by a heart attack, overlooking the most important point of both Dr. Jost's and Dr. Bennett's testimonies, that he should never have been shot in the first place."
Redle told the jury that they were only to consider statements the defendant made voluntarily. He said, "It has been suggested by the Defense that he'd been coerced. You had a chance to hear the audio, the inflection, the tone, the words...you heard [DCI's] 'coercive tactics' when Sen asks about the hat Special Agent McDonald was wearing, asking him if he wore that undercover. Agent McDonald had replied, 'No, I wear a different hat for that; it says Under Cover on it.' He was making a joke."
Redle continued, "Agent McDonald put Sen at ease when he said the GSR kit he was conducting was 'No big deal.' Those are the kinds of sinister, coercive tactics suggested to have been used."
Regarding the NGMI plea, Redle said that Dr. McCormick's diagnosis of Conduct Disorder and Depressive Disorder were not evidence of mental illness. Redle said, "Sen's conduct tells us: he wears a bandanna to conceal his identity; they commit a crime at night; they flee the scene (recognizing the wrongfulness of the conduct); he tries not to leave prints by having his hand wrapped in the sleeve of his jacket; when he brings the gun out, he conceals it n a green beanie and then hides it under the seat... what greater evidence is there...
And regarding the instruction pertaining to Duress, Redle reminded the jury of Poitra, Jr.'s testimony from Thursday, that he had not threatened Sen, and that in proving duress, they had to find that Sen was in imminent danger.
Sen had said on the confession audio that Jr. had told him at the Ernst home that if he didn't go through with it, Riley Larkins would kick his ***. But Sen had also told agents that Riley had no role that night. According to Redle, tt wasn't, therefore, an imminent threat.
At no time did Sen take steps to not become involved, Redle told the jury. He said, "When Jr. and Bear Cloud went skateboarding, he could have called the cops, gone home, but what did he do? Took a nap. He could have left any of the houses. And he told the cops on the tape that Jr. said 'if you tell anyone, I'm going to shoot you.' With what? The gun Jr. gave back to him and that he was in possession of from the time of the shooting until he was arrested?"
Redle concluded his closing by saying, "Just as Sen was an active participant in stealing the gun, he was an active participant with Jr. -- they were 'partners in crime,' if you will. He brags in the park the next day that he 'went loose on him; put three rounds in him.' And he intended to share in the profit of the stolen money, when he texted a friend at the traffic stop that Jr. has my 20."